By Ray Fleming

WHEN British troops left Lashgar Gar, the capital of Afghanistan's Helmand province, a couple of weeks ago they were given flower bouquets and the provincial governor made a speech of appreciation, emphasizing that Britons who had died there had not done so in vain because they had helped to establish the stability so important to Afghanistan's future.

That was all very proper but within the following two weeks events on the ground have told a rather different story. At the weekend twelve local policemen were killed by the Taliban, earlier a suicide bomber killed nineteen people, one of them a local BBC reporter, the Mayor of Kandahar, a former provincial governor and President Karsai's half-brother have met their deaths in circumstances suggesting Taliban responsibility. There is evidence that Afghanistan interpreters working for the British are being urged to quit their jobs -- a repeat of the al-Qaeda pressure put on Iraqi interpreters before British troops left southern Iraq.

All the evidence points to a patient Taliban policy of reminding the Afghanistan population that they are still present and can be expected to emerge in numbers when the Americans and others leave between 2012-2014. There is a strong case for bringing those dates forward if the reality is that the ten-year war will have had no lasting effect on substantial areas of Afghanistan.